INQUEST FINDINGS 12/06/14
Findings required by s. 45 I find that Kathleen Mary O’Shea is deceased. I am required to find, as far as is possible, the medical cause of death, who the deceased person was and when, where and how she came by her death. As a result of considering all of the material contained in the exhibits, I am able to make the following findings.
Identity of the deceased: Kathleen Mary O’Shea How she died: Undetermined Place of death: I find that Ms O’Shea died in the area of the Far North Queensland Tablelands Date of death: Ms O’Shea died on or soon after 29 December 2005. Cause of death: Undetermined
Comments and recommendations: Section 46 of the Coroners Act 2003 provides that a coroner may comment on anything connected with a death that relates to public health or safety, the administration of justice or ways to prevent deaths from happening in similar circumstances in the future.
Comments: All who knew Ms O’Shea described her as a happy, fun-loving and likeable person and, above all, a loving and devoted mother who would do anything for her children. She was much loved by her friends and her family. All were adamant that she would not leave her children for any substantial period without letting them know where she was.
Most of the witnesses stated they had known Ms O’Shea to hitch hike and they wouldn’t be surprised if she had hitch hiked in December 2005 if she needed transport. Ms O’Shea was a person who liked to drink Stout beer although she rarely drank to excess. She led what could be described as an alternate lifestyle. She wore eccentric clothing, she smoked marijuana and was known to have used amphetamine and heroin at times. Some of the witnesses stated that they believed John McKenzie was somehow involved in the disappearance of Ms O’Shea. There is no evidence whatsoever to support that view. There are five possible explanations for Ms O’Shea’s disappearance – firstly, that she intentionally disappeared and does not want to be found, secondly, that she committed suicide, thirdly that she died from natural causes, fourthly that she died from a drug overdose and an unknown person disposed of her body, and finally, that another person caused her death and disposed of her body. There is no reason to believe that Ms O’Shea intentionally disappeared. It is clear from the evidence heard at this inquest that she would not have left her children, on whom she doted. She had never left them for any period of time when they didn’t know of her whereabouts. She has not been seen in Queensland or Melbourne and there is no record of any activity by her since 29 December 2005. There is also no evidence that Ms O’Shea committed suicide. She was not depressed or unhappy. She was enjoying a holiday with some of her children in Ravenshoe, visiting friends and very much looking forward to the birth of her first grandchild. Most significantly, had she committed suicide it is likely that her body would have been located. Ms O’Shea was not suffering from any illnesses to the knowledge of family or friends. If she died of natural causes it is again reasonable to assume that her body would have been found. Ms O’Shea was known to be a user of illicit substances including cannabis, amphetamine and heroin. Shortly before her death she was, according to Alan O’Shea, in possession of ten ecstasy tablets. Alan O’Shea told police that after his mother disappeared he found a number of used syringes in the tent in which she had been sleeping on his property. I have considered the possibility that Ms O’Shea went to Mareeba as planned and there died from an accidental drug overdose and that an unknown person or persons disposed of her body, perhaps to ensure that they would not come to the attention of police. However, this is not a likely scenario. Alan O’Shea drove Ms O’Shea to Atherton on 29 December 2005. He dropped her at a street there and she told him that she was going to the Atherton Hotel to play pool and from there she would go to Mareeba to visit friends. Alan O’Shea then returned home. I am satisfied that Ms O’Shea was last seen by the bottle shop attendant in the bottle shop of the Atherton Hotel that evening. She left there in the company of two men.
There is no evidence that Ms O’Shea was seen anywhere after she left the Atherton Hotel and it is to be expected that, had she travelled elsewhere after being at the Hotel, sightings of her would have been reported.
I find that Ms O’Shea is deceased and she died soon after 29 December 2005 in the area of the Tablelands in Far North Queensland. The cause of her death cannot be determined but it is most likely that an unknown person or persons with whom she came into contact either at the Atherton Hotel or soon after she left there, caused her death and disposed of her body. I close the inquest.
Jane Bentley Coroner Cairns 12 June 2014